History shows religion not a big issue on Supreme Court, says journalist


While the press and liberal observers have been criticizing the nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court because of his Catholic faith, Associated Press contributor Richard Ostling points out that “history shows a justice's religion does not provide a roadmap for rulings.”

Ostling analyzes the situation based on the issue of abortion, which he calls “the main religious matter swirling around Roberts' nomination.” In fact, an AP-Ipsos poll released last week found 52 percent of Americans want Roberts to reveal his position on abortion before the Senate confirmation vote.

While Catholic judges Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas oppose abortion, another Catholic judge, Anthony Kennedy, voted in favor of reaffirming Roe v. Wade in 1992, Ostling observes.

In addition, he says, Judge William Brennan, the only Catholic on the Supreme Court in 1973, voted in favor of liberal access to abortion.

Conclusion: History shows that U.S. judges have not always voted in line with the teachings of their particular religion and, because of that, religion cannot be used to discount a person for Supreme Court.

Ostling says Catholic Democratic senators Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois are expected to ask tough questions of Roberts during his nomination hearing.

However, Joseph Cella of Fidelis, a Catholic group that backs conservative judges, warned senators against targeting Roberts "because of his Catholic faith or family life."

Ostling cites Robert Destro of the Catholic University of America law school, who said he would be surprised if religion came up during confirmation hearings because the Constitution clearly states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office."

If Roberts is confirmed, Ostling notes, he will be the fourth Catholic on the Supreme Court. This would see the greatest number of Catholics sitting on the Supreme Court at one time.

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